On the Art of Writing eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 246 pages of information about On the Art of Writing.

I think if you will but open your ears to this beautiful vowel-play which runs through all the best of our prose and poetry, whether you ever learn to master it or not, you will have acquired a new delight, and one various enough to last you though you live to a very old age.

All this of which I am speaking is Art:  and Literature being an Art, do you not see how personal a thing it is—­how it cannot escape being personal?  No two men (unless they talk Jargon) say the same thing in the same way.  As is a man’s imagination, as is his character, as is the harmony in himself, as is his ear, as is his skill, so and not otherwise he will speak, so and not otherwise than they can respond to that imagination, that character, that order of his intellect, that harmony of his soul, his hearers will hear him.  Let me conclude with this great passage from Newman which I beg you, having heard it, to ponder:—­

If then the power of speech is as great as any that can be named, —­if the origin of language is by many philosophers considered nothing short of divine—­if by means of words the secrets of the heart are brought to light, pain of soul is relieved, hidden grief is carried off, sympathy conveyed, experience recorded, and wisdom perpetuated,—­if by great authors the many are drawn up into unity, national character is fixed, a people speaks, the past and the future, the East and the West are brought into communication with each other,—­if such men are, in a word, the spokesmen and the prophets of the human family—­it will not answer to make light of Literature or to neglect its study:  rather we may be sure that, in proportion as we master it in whatever language, and imbibe its spirit, we shall ourselves become in our own measure the ministers of like benefits to others—­be they many or few, be they in the obscurer or the more distinguished walks of life—­who are united to us by social ties, and are within the sphere of our personal influence.

[Footnote 1:  I append the following specimen translations of the famous passage in St Paul’s “First Epistle to the Corinthians” xv. 51 sqq.  I choose this because (1) it is an important passage; (2) it touches a high moment of philosophising; (3) the comparison seems to me to represent with great fairness to Tyndale the extent of the forty-seven’s debt to him; (4) it shows that they meant exactly what they said in their Preface; and (5) it illustrates, towards the close, their genius for improvement.  From the Greek, Wyclif translates:—­

Lo, I seie to you pryvyte of holi thingis | and alle we schulen rise agen | but not alle we schuln be chaungid | in a moment in the twynkelynge of an ye, in the last trumpe | for the trumpe schal sowne:  and deed men schulen rise agen with out corrupcion, and we schuln be changid | for it bihoveth this corruptible thing to clothe uncorropcion and this deedly thing to putte aweye undeedlynesse.  But whanne this deedli thing schal clothe undeedlynesse | thanne schal the word be don that is written | deeth is sopun up in victorie | deeth, where is thi victorie? deeth, where is thi pricke?

Tyndale:—­

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On the Art of Writing from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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